South Africa’s Banking Risk Information Center (Sabric) notes in its recent annual report that the Covid-19 pandemic triggered changes in human behavior and human movement, creating new opportunities for criminals and having a significant impact on the number and type of criminal incidents reported to Sabric.
Covid-19 appeared to have accelerated the theft online. Figures from Sabric’s annual crime statistics report for 2020, released at the same time as the annual report, show that criminals also appear to have chosen to work remotely during the first part of 2020 by expanding their presence online.
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Violent contact crimes such as thefts of cash in transit and robberies at automated teller machines (ATMs) decreased in the first half of the year, while online crimes continued to grow.
Sabric CEO Nischal Mewalall says that thefts of cash in transit decreased significantly during April and May 2020 due to the Level 5 lockdown, but increased by 22% after movement restrictions were lifted, as the criminals were able to move with fewer restrictions and less fear of roadblocks. and searches.
“Digital crime incidents increased by 33% from 2019 to 2020 due to the massive shift in shopper and consumer behavior from physical retail stores to online retailers, providing cybercriminals with greater opportunities to defraud companies. people, ”he says.
“Your personal data, when combined with technology, has become the new key to the safe that keeps your money in a bank. Therefore, you must protect your data to prevent criminals from accessing your safe. ”
While Sabric has noticed a general increase in banking crime incidents, it mentioned that criminals appear to have improved their efforts to mislead customers on digital and online platforms to steal their personal data and try to defraud them, as customers turned to to online shopping and clearance. payments through digital channels.
South African banks established Sabric some 20 years ago as a central body for sharing and analyzing information on crime in the banking sector and developing countermeasures to prevent fraud and theft. All South African banks and cash transport operators are members, while cell phone providers, law enforcement agencies and a long list of government departments are listed as stakeholders and users of Sabric services.
Interestingly, Sabric warns consumers about no fewer than 29 different methods criminals use to try to steal money.
Some are new and sophisticated, while others are old and well-known, so old that it’s surprising they still work, such as the so-called 419 scam (a type of ‘advance payment’ fraud).
Some seem really stupid (but could still work), like a stranger approaching someone at an ATM with the story that the cash from the machine is cursed, but has the muti available to clean it up. “Just give it here for a moment …”
The lovesick people on dating websites are also targets, and criminals foster a friendship and then ask for money for a plane ticket.
Other criminals do a great deal selling goods that do not exist.
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Credit and debit card fraud is big business. Figures from Sabric indicate that South African bank account holders lost nearly R1 billion due to card fraud in 2020, even if they show a slight decrease from 2019.
Overall debit card fraud increased by more than 26% to more than R520 million in 2020 compared to R411 million in 2019.
Credit card fraud and theft decreased from R656 million to less than R470 million. Mewalall says the reason for this change is a shift among consumers where debit card use is growing.
Criminals targeting South Africans seem to be able to work from anywhere in the world.
Almost 60% of all fraud involving cards issued by South African banks can be traced to transactions originating outside of South Africa.
These crimes include unauthorized transactions where the card is not present, for example, using the information on a card to carry out an online transaction. In total, SA account holders lost more than R650 million as a result of such fraudulent transactions.
The use of counterfeit and lost or stolen cards earned criminals 301 million rand.
Contact with crime
Sabric noted that the incidence of crimes involving physical contact with a victim or with property decreased during 2020 due to restricted movement and visible surveillance during pandemic closures.
The number of robberies to bank customers at ATMs decreased by 24% and the amount of money lost decreased by 31%. The visible presence of the police (to enforce pandemic regulations) helped, according to Sabric.
Attacks on ATMs also decreased, by 9%, while collections decreased by 22% compared to 2019.
However, explosive attacks on ATMs increased by 20% and the success rate of attacks increased to 54% of incidents, up from 40% in 2019.
“The suspects used more explosives or multiple blasts to breach the safes,” according to the crime report.
Opening an ATM safe with a handheld angle grinder no longer seems to work. The number of attempts was reduced by 40% and losses decreased by 50%.
Old-fashioned thefts from financial institutions, targeting cash and computers, increased by 12% in 2020 and associated cash losses increased by 23%.
Sabric noted that theft of cash and assets at post office branches accounted for the majority of these theft incidents.
The post office was also the target of most bank robberies, which increased by 42%, and losses increased by 67%.
The perpetrators reportedly disguised themselves as government officials conducting Covid-19 compliance inspections.
Relatively secure banking applications
Figures from Sabric indicate that digital banking is relatively safe, but not immune to crime.
Fraud across all digital banking platforms (banking apps, mobile banking, and internet banking) increased by 33%, but the number of successful incidents was low.
Sabric reported 35,307 incidents and total losses of R309 million before recoveries, while each of the large banks reports millions of digital transactions each year.
The worst risk appears to be the swapping of cellular SIM cards, which were to blame for most of the fraud incidents reported in 2020.
The amounts in more than 21,000 incidents would have been reasonably small for a total of less than R46 million (averaging around R2190 each).
Mewalall says that going forward, cybercrime and data breaches will pose an increasing threat to customers and banks, because even the best security and technology can be compromised when criminals obtain and use legitimate data to go. carried out a crime.
It cautions bank customers never to click on links in unsolicited email messages, as these links are used in phishing emails to lead people to “spoofed” websites that look like legitimate online retailers, with attractive images and compelling slogans.
“Criminals use these bogus websites to collect bank card details to make online purchases using your account,” Mewalall says.
“We continue to see many scams advertising seemingly incredible deals for fake personal protective equipment, disinfectants and vaccines that exploit people’s concern for their health and safety.”
Listen to Melitta Ngalonkulu’s interview with LAWtrust’s Rian Schoeman (or read the transcript here):